United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT.
VANESSA L. BRYANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Dingwell, Sr. (“Plaintiff” or “Dingwell,
Sr.”) brings this First Amendment retaliation civil
rights case, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against
Defendants the City of Meriden (“City”), Chief of
Police Jeffrey Cossette (“Police Chief
Cossette”), and Detective John Williams for various
retaliatory actions allegedly taken against him for publicly
criticizing the Meriden Police Department (Police
Department"). Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss
for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted. For the following reasons, this motion is DENIED.
City is a political subdivision of the State of Connecticut
under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-557n(a)(1) and has a police
department as provided by the Meriden Charter. [Dkt. 21 (Am.
Compl.) ¶¶ 5-6]. Police Chief Cossette was employed
by the City and entitled to appoint officers and employees of
the Police Department. See Id. ¶ 8. Detective
Williams was the President of the Meriden Police Union at all
times relevant to this case. See Id. ¶ 4. The
Amended Complaint alleges all Defendants “were charged
with the preservation of the public peace, prevention of
crime, apprehension of criminals, regulation of traffic,
protection of the rights of persons and property and
enforcement of the laws of the state and the ordinances of
the City of Meriden, and all rules and regulations made in
accordance therewith.” Id. ¶ 9. The
Police Department maintains a Facebook page on which the
public can post comments. During all relevant instances,
Detective Williams and Police Chief Cossette were acting
within the scope of their employment and all Defendants were
acting under the color of state law. See Id.
Dingwell, Sr. is a resident of the City and he has a son
named Christopher Dingwell, Jr. (“Dingwell,
Jr.”). See Id. ¶¶ 1-2. He describes
himself as a “concerned citizen and taxpayer” of
the City who “engaged in speech” to “bring
to light inefficiencies and inadequacies to further
transparency between the police and the people they serve and
protect.” Id. ¶ 12.
Mr. Dingwell, Sr.'s strategies was to publicly post
criticisms on the Police Department Facebook page, and on an
undisclosed date he was blocked from posting. See
Id. ¶¶ 13-14. The American Civil Liberties
Union (“ACLU”) contacted the Police Department on
his behalf, see Id. ¶ 15, but the Amended
Complaint does not indicate his access was restored. From
2014 on, Mr. Dingwell, Sr. informed members of the local
press corps about Police Department's irregularities.
See Id. ¶ 17.
January 2015, Mr. Dingwell, Sr. became aware that two
firearms were possibly missing from the Meriden Police
Department armory. See Id. ¶ 18. On unspecified
dates, he called and texted Larue Graham of the Public Safety
Committee and Mayor Kevin Scarpetti; he notified the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms (“ATF”); and
he reported the issue to the State Police. See Id.
¶ 19-22. He also reported the incident to a Meriden
newspaper, the Record Journal, which published the story; the
Police Department stated “in explicit terms” that
it “was angry with him for leaking the story to the
public.” Id. ¶ 28-29. The date of this
incident is unknown as well.
November 9, 2015, an officer stopped Mr. Dingwell, Sr. for
speeding and having impermissibly tinted windows. See
Id. ¶ 23. Mr. Dingwell, Sr. disputed both issues
and the ticket was ultimately thrown out. See id.
early March 2016, Mr. Dingwell, Sr. was asked to meet an
officer of the Meriden Police Department in a parking lot.
See Id. ¶ 24. The Amended Complaint alleges the
unnamed officer warned him that the Meriden Police Department
would “go after his family if necessary” if he
did not abandon pursuit of the missing firearms story.
See Id. On March 26, 2016, Mr. Dingwell's son
was a passenger in a car that was pulled over by the Meriden
police. See Id. ¶ 30. Mr. Dingwell, Jr. was
arrested and charged with possession of a facsimile firearm,
possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle, tampering with
evidence, carrying a dangerous weapon, and conspiracy to
carry a dangerous weapon. See Id. ¶ 31.
March 27, 2016, Detective Williams sent Police Chief Cossette
an email with the subject: Chris Dingwell. See [Dkt.
21 ¶ 30]. Detective Williams stated, “As Union
President, I am respectfully requesting that the Police
Department complete a press release for distribution tomorrow
to not only our local press but our Facebook as well”
regarding the arrest of Mr. Dingwell, Jr. of which
“during the stop Chris Dingwell[']s . . . son threw
a facsimile firearm out of the car.” [Dkt.
The email also states the following:
More importantly is the fact that Chris Dingwell is one of
the most outspoken citizens against this Administration and
Department. Yet, here is the second of his two kids who are
criminals and creating crime in our City. This case should be
exploited for what it is, not only excellent work on the part
of our men and women of this agency but the fact that this is
the guy who touts his inner knowledge and workings of the
Police Department and has an association with a rat or two
from within our Department. Yet he does . . . nothing to make
this Community better and instead has created drama for the
real citizens of this City.
Id. Dingwell, Jr.'s arrest was published on the
Police Department Facebook page, the Record Journal, and
other news outlets. See [Dkt. 21 ¶¶
months later on September 6, 2016, Mr. Dingwell, Sr. spoke at
a City Council meeting and criticized the Police
Department's lack of transparency. Id. ¶
40. When he entered, an unnamed officer told him to
“keep quiet and lay low during the meeting.”
Id. ¶ 42. He nonetheless raised issues with (a)
increased gang violence; (b) a nine-day delay on publicly
reporting a murder; (c) the misplacement of a gun resulted in
a defendant to “walk”; and (d) his request that
Police Chief Cossette be fired. See Id. ¶ 41.
Dingwell, Sr. thereafter sent emails to
“officials” of the Police Department about public
safety concerns. Id. ¶ 43. On November 15,
2016, Detective Williams responded to one of his emails and
stated that “[a]ny further emails from you to me that
are not official City business will be followed up with a
Criminal investigation.” Id. ¶ 45.
December 2016, Mr. Dingwell, Sr. learned that a security
detail had been placed on him. See Id. ¶ 49. He
then “became afraid to engage in public speech”
against the Meriden Police Department. Id. ¶
50. An internal investigation about Captain Patrick Gaynor
(“Captain Gaynor”) was published in April 2017,
and the content of the investigation revealed conversations
between Captain Gaynor and Mr. Dingwell, Sr. were monitored.
See Id. ¶ 51-53. An excerpt of the internal
investigation was submitted by Defendants and indicates
Captain Gaynor was determined by a preponderance of the
evidence to have engaged in violations of the Police
Department Rules and Regulations, some of which appear to be
related to Captain Gaynor allegedly giving internal Meriden
Police Department information to Mr. Dingwell, Sr. See
generally [Dkt. 25-2 (Mot. Dismiss Ex. A)].
survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In
considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
the Court should follow a “two-pronged approach”
to evaluate the sufficiency of the complaint. Hayden v.
Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 161 (2d Cir. 2010). “A
court ‘can choose to begin by identifying pleadings
that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth.'” Id.
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). “At the
second step, a court should determine whether the
‘wellpleaded factual allegations, ' assumed to be
true, ‘plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679). “The plausibility standard is not akin to
a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotations
general, the Court's review on a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) “is limited to the facts as
asserted within the four corners of the complaint, the
documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any
documents incorporated by reference.”
McCarthy, 482 F.3d at 191. The Court may also
consider “matters of which judicial notice may be
taken” and “documents either in plaintiffs'
possession or of which plaintiffs had knowledge and relied on
in bringing suit.” Brass v. ...